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caption: This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
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This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
Credit: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP

Monkeypox cases are doubling in Washington, but more vaccines are on the way

The World Health Organization has declared Monkeypox a "public health emergency of international concern."

There are now about 5,000 confirmed cases in the United States.

The trajectory of this virus is not what public-health officials want to see.

Soundside talked to Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, the chief science officer for the state Department of Health about how Washington is tracking and treating monkeypox cases locally.

Where are case numbers right now?

According to Dr. Kwan-Gett, there are currently 145 confirmed cases of monkeypox, or MPV, in Washington state.

Cases have doubled every eight to nine days, Kwan-Gett said, which is similar to other states as well.

"So clearly, this is an outbreak that is not under control," Kwan-Gett said. "Cases are mostly in King County, though, in recent days we've also seen cases pop up in surrounding counties as well."

How does it spread?

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be spread through close or intimate contact.

That could include direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox, or touching bedding or towels that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

Kwan-Gett said that so far, most confirmed cases have been with men who have sex with men about three weeks before symptoms of MPV appeared.

"[MPV] can be transmitted through any physical contact with someone with an infectious rash, and so while we are seeing the virus transmitted currently primarily among men who report having sex with other men, it's important to remember MPV doesn't care about your gender, your sexual orientation," Kwan-Gett said.

Are vaccines available?

Sort of.

The national demand for the monkeypox vaccine is high, and the supply is extremely limited.

According to Public Health – Seattle & King County, 1,420 vaccine doses were delivered from the Washington state Department of Health to King County.

Vaccines were divided between eight different providers in the area, based on their ability to reach people at the highest risk of exposure.

King County received an additional 3,300 doses on July 27. According to Dr. Kwan-Gett, Washington state currently does not have the vaccine supply it needs to prevent infection, but more vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

If you are navigating the process of trying to get a monkeypox vaccine in Washington state, we would love to hear about your experience. Drop us a line at Soundside@kuow.org.